Kant’s text and the textbook discuss two “formulations” or ways of expressing Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the “Formula of Universal Law” and the “Formula of Humanity.”
Your initial post should address the following elements:
Engage with the text:
EXPLAIN either the Formula of Universal Law or Formula of Humanity.
CHOOSE AND BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE one of the test cases in the text (suicide, false promises, cultivating one’s talents, or beneficence).
CREATE YOUR OWN TEST CASE – it can be anything you want to consider, any behavior such as lying, cheating, or killing one person to save the lives of five others. It can even be an absurd or far-fetched example (these work mostly when you’re showing that something is immoral) such as a test case about eating nothing but cake all day long.
APPLY the moral reasoning of deontology as it is presented in the test cases in section 4.2 of the text. This means that your own test case should have the following 5 steps (basically 4 steps and a conclusion.
1.Maxim – State the maxim of how you would act (what you would do)
2. Universal Law – State the law which extrapolates your action to a universal action
3. The World – Imagine the impact this law would have on the world, on how the world works and how people behave
4. Is There a Contradiction – Consider whether or not there is a contradiction in the world you have imagined. This step is often tricky so just keep in mind that you are looking for a logical or moral contradiction. Also, keep in mind that you are looking for a contradiction in THE IMAGINED WORLD, THE WORLD IN WHICH EVERYONE OBEYS THE UNIVERSAL LAW — and not this real world in which we live. For example, suppose the universal law was that everyone must tell 4 lies a day or be tossed into a vat of tar. What would a world in which everyone obeyed this law look like? Well, in order not to be thrown into a vat of tar, you would need to lie at least 4 times a day. What would such a world look or function like? Would it have moral or logical contradictions (hint: yes!)?
Once you’ve answered this question for the imagined world, the content for this step should be:
Yes, there is a contradiction and therefore the maxim is not moral.
No, there is no contradiction and therefore the maxim is moral.
THIS IS DIFFICULT BUT YOU CAN MASTER THIS SO I RECOMMEND PRACTING GOING THROUGH THESE STEPS IN YOUR MIND. JUST TAKE ANY OLD ACTION THAT COMES TO MIND – SERIOUS OR SILLY – AND PUT IT THROUGH THESE REASONIONG STEPS. For example, here’s the first two steps in a silly example:
Maxim: Every time I get a text, I will eat a piece of chocolate
Universal Law: Anytime anyone gets a text, they must eat a piece of chocolate
It’s not hard to imagine what the world would be like if everyone in it obeyed this universal law!
Reflect on yourself:
Do you agree with the conclusion of these reasoning steps? In other words, do you agree with how deontology evaluates your maxim as moral or immoral? If not, explain the flaws in this reasoning. Briefly explain whether or not you think utilitarianism would come to the same conclusion.